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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 37.86%
Average: 11.65%
Pretty Bad: 1.94%
Total Crap: 4.85%

6 reviews, 67 user ratings

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District 9
[] Buy posters from this movie
by William Goss

"It's No Fun Being An Illegal Alien"
4 stars

Talk about the unlikeliest blockbuster: 'District 9' has no stars to its name, subtitles in every other scene, sociopolitical concerns from the start and happens to be set in South Africa instead of merely being shot there. And yet here it is, opening on 3,000+ screens and being greeted with no small amount of last-gasp-of-summer hype, and while it may not be quite the revolutionary blockbuster that some would already have you believe, itís certainly a refreshingly considered note on which to unofficially end the summer.

In all fairness, Iíve left out the one element that has helped boost D-9ís profile to must-see proportions: it has aliens in it. See, these extraterrestrials stalled over Johannesburg somewhere between two and three decades ago (the film seems to contradict itself on the exact number, but you get the idea), and out of pity for the malnourished creatures, they were retrieved from their stalled ship and placed on the ground below. As their numbers grew, their living conditions and general reception from the neighboring humans decayed, and now in the present day, the corporate Multi-National United has been tasked with evicting the creatures from the squalor of District 9 to an even smaller camp much farther from town limits.

Leading the charge on behalf of his father-in-law is timid pencil-pusher Wikus Van De Merwe (newcomer Sharlto Copley), who relishes the opportunity to come in and push around the so-called Ďprawnsí just as MNUís hired guns like to push around Wikus himself when he begins to question their protocol. However, an accidental encounter with some alien liquid brings with it some grim changes, and Wikus suddenly finds himself a little less high-and-mighty and a little more most-wanted by the government outside of District 9 and by the gangsters who keep up bad business within it.

Director Neill Blomkamp, making his first feature under the guidance of producer Peter Jackson, expands his 2005 short ďAlive in JoburgĒ to do so, and the seams show when the mock-documentary style of that film wavers as this film goes to places where cameras wouldnít actually be around, at which point insert shots of news coverage and the like comes across as perfunctory at best. However, when most every scene features some form of visual effect, whether it be the ever-present mothership in the sky or the many, many prawns on the ground, and when those effects are then seamlessly incorporated into such immediate direction, it creates an engaging viewing experience with or without a news ticker crawling across the bottom of the frame, and thatís to say nothing of the virtual performances here that make the existence of Jar-Jar Binks seem worthwhile in hindsight.

Co-writing with Terri Tatchell, the South Africa-born Blomkamp clearly grounds the plight of the aliens in real-life Apartheid conditions, not to mention any other historical misery that saw one population denouncing another, and the only reason that said miseries come off as so much window dressing instead of a full-fledged parable in prawnís clothing is because weíre told nothing by the end of the film that we donít already know by the end of the first reel: Persecution = Bad. Far more fascinating on its surface level is Wikusí transformations inside and out, reminiscent of The Fly though they may be and mostly moving because Copley makes for a convincing chump-turned-fugitive-turned-freedom-fighter.

Go ahead and skip to the next paragraph if you fear too many spoilers, but I think it comes as little surprise that Wikus soon finds himself on the other side of the fence with those creatures that heíd just treated so callously, but I believe that even before he teams up with an alien named Christopher Johnson (so named by MNU, natch), Wikus is a suppressed individual operating within an oppressive society, manipulated and mocked and now suffering the tyranny of both a group which he has recently treated poorly and a group that has always treated him poorly. So by the time Wikus and Christopher are running through a climactic firefight, it doesnít just seem like E.T. writ bloody, with every walkie-talkie replaced with a shotgun as this man tries to get his alien friend home, but especially when our once-dweeby protagonist employs a weaponized suit of armor from outer space to fight back, itís a critical reckoning that plays almost as an ultimate act of geek wish fulfillment, with Wikus sticking it to the jock-like mercenaries and scheming superiors who have done him so much wrong over so many years.

But maybe Iím just reading too much into it. Maybe 'District 9' really is nothing more than an exceedingly nifty shoot-Ďem-up, with truly effective effects, a breathless sense of pacing and a welcome sense of humor. Maybe itís just a remarkable demonstration in what wonders can manifest from a relatively modest budget (they say $30 million) and an emphasis on the stakes of spectacle over the scale of it. But even if thatís all 'District 9' is, itís still something to be grateful for. After all, movies like this donít just fall out of the sky.

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originally posted: 08/15/09 09:10:38
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User Comments

10/03/20 DavidV A bit duller than I remembered it being 3 stars
10/30/16 morris campbell boring overrated crap 1 stars
4/26/15 Terror One of the greatest movies ever made 5 stars
3/24/15 the truth Stay the Fuck away from ALIEN, Neil! 1 stars
3/11/15 Joe This is great 5 stars
12/06/13 terra c One of the greatest sci fi films ever made 5 stars
1/18/13 austin great movie 5 stars
9/22/12 austin awesome. one of my favorites. 5 stars
4/19/11 Chris F complete and utter trash 1 stars
3/01/11 brian Sci-fi noir comedy. Hmm. 5 stars
1/14/11 dude I love this movie 5 stars
10/30/10 R.W. Welch Imaginative, if not terribly logical. Impressive acting. 4 stars
4/18/10 Ionicera Great movie overall, could have used a litle more setup initially 4 stars
3/28/10 Shaun A Realistic, satiric first half. Compelling second half. 5 stars
3/22/10 Stanley Thai It's a fresh and unique take with aliens coming to Earth. 4 stars
3/19/10 mr.mike So good I watched it twice. Beginning is a turnoff,tho. 4 stars
2/15/10 Simon Hokey story/writing by the end indeed, but Blomkamp's direction and creativity is promising 4 stars
1/25/10 LynchFan Wildly uneven!Really shitty first half(Blair Witch camera is tired)then good 2nd half.Weird 3 stars
1/21/10 daveyt loved the mix of styles and storytelleling, not highbrow- just entertaining!! 5 stars
1/10/10 Jeff Wilder More intelligence than most sci-fi films. 4 stars
12/30/09 randy todger awesome better than usual hollywood shit 5 stars
12/17/09 Mess Well-made science fiction full of quality moments, Blomkamp a rising star 4 stars
12/13/09 mwilde Not for the dim witted. 5 stars
12/05/09 pin very well done 4 stars
11/29/09 Aaron Commareri Refreshing Sci-Fi 5 stars
11/28/09 matt way more violent than i expected, but hugely entertaining 5 stars
10/23/09 Tessa Showed Apartheid in a light that would have not been allowed in a documentary. 5 stars
10/04/09 Rastafarian Bad ending----useful only to set up a sequel. 3 stars
10/04/09 Joseph The story itself sucked...action was good...but plot, story, etc...horrible! 1 stars
9/26/09 av_rated Unaware of the goal, the "more human than humans" angle was sold to perfection. 5 stars
9/15/09 ES Empathy; if you felt nothing during this movi you do not possess it. 5 stars
9/04/09 othree Convincing main character, I liked that, techo efx, bonus 4 stars
9/03/09 The Grinch Kicked more ass than Charles Bronson 5 stars
9/03/09 Gordon Slow and stupid story - Stunk; got my money back 1 stars
9/03/09 David A couple plot holes, but it's story was still interesting and the actrion kicked ass. 5 stars
9/01/09 KingNeutron Kind of shocking in parts, very thought-provoking 4 stars
9/01/09 DarkKnight77587 Can't wait to see Blomkamp's interpretation of HALO! This film was the spring board for it! 5 stars
8/31/09 Omar One of the best films I saw this year. 5 stars
8/30/09 MVC Definately a must see on the big screen 5 stars
8/27/09 R. G. Ranade Perfect first hour, still entertaining but not as great typical-action-movie second hour 4 stars
8/25/09 damalc not nearly what i expected, but not quite as good as many reviewers are saying 4 stars
8/24/09 gc Finally a summer movie with interesting characters and a unique plot, visuals awesome too 5 stars
8/21/09 Arturo Great movie, the final scene is so powerfull, can't wait to see the conclusion. 5 stars
8/20/09 DiamondJoe The mistress likes Aliens so it was good 4 stars
8/19/09 Night1836 Great graphics and it even had a plat! LOL! 5 stars
8/19/09 Slee Fresh and unexpected. Not perfect but darn good! 4 stars
8/19/09 action movie fan one the right track but hard to follow-aliens seem silly-still good 3 stars
8/19/09 FrankNFurter Shitty shaky-cam ruins the film, like in Cloverfield, Quarantine, Blair Witch, etc. 3 stars
8/18/09 Overrated It's "E.T." with explosions. Nothing unique about the story at all. Rent "Alien Nation" 3 stars
8/18/09 JB I agree, the very last scene is so very powerfull and full of depth- a sequel please 5 stars
8/18/09 Phineas Whites: no more 'sensitivity' to aliens that only want to destroy our culture AND US. 4 stars
8/18/09 Jack Teeple Best Sci Fi since Dark City 5 stars
8/18/09 BC Good Sci-Fi but be warned, very graphic 5 stars
8/18/09 veddermatic Wow, good Sci-Fi without a tacked on "happy" ending. Great, great film 5 stars
8/18/09 SueR A terrific movie that has it all--great acting, script, message, and special effects 5 stars
8/17/09 Sully Well worth 100 can of cat food! 5 stars
8/17/09 Quigley An amazing, mind-blowing and suprisingly emotional sci-fi tale. A new classic has been born 5 stars
8/17/09 Flounder A rare combination of gritty sci-fi and food for thought. Best sci-fi flick since the 80s 5 stars
8/17/09 chiyoko Loved this intelligent, emotional sci-fi end-of-summer movie. A stunner! 5 stars
8/17/09 Social studies loco I really didnt want to see this movie at first, glad i did bcuz it is one of the best films 5 stars
8/16/09 The Great Lee Card My heart was pounding because it was so f-ing epic. 5 stars
8/16/09 Obi Wan Great Sci Fi Movie....story was on point! 5 stars
8/16/09 Darkstar Tied with Star Trek for my favorite movie of the summer 5 stars
8/15/09 sleestakk Blomkamp explained the Nigerians during my Q&A. Definitely pre-existing problem in S.Africa 5 stars
8/14/09 steve best movie of the summer 5 stars
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  14-Aug-2009 (R)
  DVD: 29-Dec-2009


  DVD: 29-Dec-2009

Directed by
  Neill Blomkamp

Written by
  Neill Blomkamp
  Terri Tatchell


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